Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

What Do You Want?

I was thinking about this question because it would seem obvious.  As I pondered the question, “What do you want?” what I realized is that if you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic or other life-altering illness the answer is simple; your health.  Once I thought about the simplicity of the answer it made me wonder about the real question that follows the diagnosis of an illness.

The question we should be asking is, “What don’t you want?’  If you what you want is health, then the actions would seem straight forward.  You would engage in activities that promote health.  You can read articles, take classes, follow the doctor’s orders and the hope is that you will get better, even if that means not getting well.

However, if you ask the question, “What don’t I want?” it places the emphasis in a different direction.  It makes you look at the possibilities of hitting obstacles and then forming solutions to avoid those potholes.  The obvious things for many people when asking the question, “What don’t I want?” is obvious; you don’t want to die.  I’m wondering once you get past that existential horror; what do you really not want?

I know for me any time I ask myself that question the immediate response is “pain and suffering”.  Short-term pain I can take and understand, but long-term, non-relenting, never-ending pain would be another story.  One of the things I have to focus on in my planning is to make that wish very clear to the person who is my Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare.  In addition, I want to discuss this with my doctor and other family members so we’re all on the same page.

What I know is that when I ask the question, “What don’t I want?” It shifts my thinking.  I’m more inclined to think of ways to avoid what I don’t want.  I may accomplish that with food, rest, and exercise.  I may avoid those things I don’t want by engaging in my spiritual practice.  I may avoid isolation by joining support groups, or as I’ve noticed lately from my cell phone statements, calling and texting are ways for me to stay connected and feel the love others have for me.

Asking the question, “what don’t I want?” makes me and hopefully you think about quality of life issues.  I’m hoping that it engages you in your care so you can work tirelessly at avoiding those things you don’t want.  You have to identify them so you can make plans to avoid those pitfalls. 

I’d love to hear what you don’t want and the decisions you’re making to avoid those obstacles.


I've lived my life in service to others. I'm focused on mental health and how it impacts our relationships, culture, and society. Through creative expression and narrative I believe we can impact change.

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